By Eric MacKenzie, Whistler Question
With a former champion returning and more elite runners filling out the field than ever before, the third edition of The North Face Whistler Half Marathon is already shaping up to be a competitive race.
Race organizers learned Monday (May 20) that Vancouver’s David Palermo would not be back to defend his title from 2012 as expected, but the event is still drawing a talented group of B.C. runners that includes last year’s other podium finishers — Jason Loutitt of Squamish and Edward McCarthy from Vancouver.
Former Whistler resident Care Nelson, the 2011 women’s winner of the Whistler Half Marathon, is also back for the June 1 race after placing second last year.
“I love Whistler and take any excuse I can get to come visit. I keep coming back for The North Face Whistler Half Marathon because it’s an all-around incredible event,” Nelson said in a press release. “It’s so well organized and spectator-friendly, and includes great guest speakers, an awards ceremony and entertainment for all ages.”
To qualify for elite runner status, male entrants must have completed a previous half marathon in less than one hour, 15 minutes. The benchmark for women is 1:25.
Also part of the men’s elite field will be David Jackson of Abbotsford, Nicholas Browne of Vancouver — the sixth-place full-distance finisher in this year’s BMO Vancouver Marathon — and fellow B.C. runners Colin Wallace, Mike Chandler and Geoff Reid.
Former Whistler resident Kristina Rody has been named to the elite women’s field alongside Nelson, Tina Connelly, Catrin Jones and Amy Schneeberg.
“Elite runners are always a spectator favourite,” said race director Dave Clark in the release. “This year’s men’s and ladies’ sides are well-stacked with runners and the race will be great from anywhere along the course.”
This year’s race will also award a prize purse of $1,600 to the top finishers. The sold-out event will include a 10-kilometre course for the first time, with runners leaving the Whistler Olympic Plaza start line between 7 and 8 a.m. next Saturday (June 1).
Meanwhile, there’s a way for spectators to come away with prizes this year with the announcement of the race’s Cheer For Gear contest. Spectators are encouraged to think of a creative way to cheer on the runners on race day, then register that cheer on the event website. The competitors themselves will then vote on their favourite cheer, with the winning entrant receiving a camping equipment package worth more than $900 from The North Face.
Visit www.whistlerhalfmarathon.com to register your cheer and find full event details.